There’s No Place Like Pitt for the Holidays

For those that can’t make it in person this season, a Facebook gallery showcases details and information about each of the rooms.

Now through the week of Jan. 20, visitors to the Cathedral of Learning who take a Nationality Rooms tour will get to see festive decorations throughout.

Many of the rooms feature large trees decorated with ornaments aligned with each culture’s traditions. In the Czechoslovakian Room, visitors will see handblown glass ornaments, while trees in the Swiss and Norwegian rooms feature small replicas of the countries’ flags.

First-come, first-served guided tours are available Dec. 26-31 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the information counter ($4 for adults; $2 for kids ages 6-18). No reservations are accepted. There are no tours Dec. 24-25, 2019, or Jan. 1, 2020.

History, upgraded

All but one of the Nationality Rooms are functional classrooms. Many have been modernized with low-energy LED bulbs in fixtures that, due to historicity, cannot be otherwise replaced. In collaboration with the Office of the Provost and the University Center for Teaching and Learning, many also now feature modern technology camouflaged to match the design of the room around it.

Only the Early American Room is non-functional, due to its design featuring a large, wooden desk at which some students might sit with their backs to the chalkboard. Accessible only with a tour guide, the room is also the only one with two levels, with a purportedly haunted bedroom space above the large fireplace on the first level.

  • Visitors to the Early American Room can view rifles over the hearth, a coin collection and perhaps even its rumored spirit inhabitants—but not a tree, as Christmas did not become popular in the United States until after 1850. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Decorations in the Chinese and Japanese rooms focus on New Year celebrations. Here, the Chinese Room celebrates the Year of the Rat, with oranges and paper holiday poppers. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • In Italian tradition, gifts are delivered on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 5) and not by Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas, but Befana, whose name likely derives the Italian phrase for the day—Festa dell’Epifania. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Besides the holiday tree decorated with crosses, visitors to the Armenian Room can view the 39-letter Armenian alphabet and a list of prominent Armenians through the ages, including rulers and playwrights. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • In the Israel Heritage Room, a menorah and dreidels add a festive touch in honoring Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. (Don Henderson/University of Pittsburgh)
  • This guitar is among the decorations in the Austrian Room, not far from the music sheet for “Silent Night, Holy Night.” The sheet tells the story of how the symbolic melody was born on Christmas Eve in 1878 in a small village near Salzburg. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)